Unlike last season, when he took nearly three weeks to accept a summer demotion to Triple-A, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella would be willing to head to the minors without incident this year, according to manager Joe Maddon (via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago). A season-opening role with Triple-A Iowa is a possibility for La Stella, who’s battling outfielder Matt Szczur for the Cubs’ final bench spot. Szczur is the only one of the two who’s out of options, which could bode poorly for La Stella. The Cubs “haven’t decided everything or anything yet,” per Maddon, but he believes Szczur is a major league-caliber player and an ideal teammate.
More from the National League:
- Yangervis Solarte (second base) and non-roster invitee Erick Aybar (shortstop) are likely to open the season as the Padres’ double-play combination, manager Andy Green suggested to Owen Perkins of MLB.com on Saturday. Solarte has spent the majority of his career at third base, but he also has experience at the keystone. His move across the diamond will open up the hot corner for a combo of Ryan Schimpf, who emerged from anonymity to hit 20 home runs as a 28-year-old rookie last season, and Cory Spangenberg. Aybar, meanwhile, has long been a capable shortstop, but he endured a poor 2016 split between Atlanta and Detroit and then settled for a minor league deal with the Padres last month. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old has impressed Green. “Erick’s done a lot of things we really like in camp so far,” said Green. “I enjoy the type of person he is, the way his mind works, the way he’s hit the ball around the yard.”
- Career minor leaguer Jose Martinez has won the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder spot, leading the team to demote Tommy Pham to Triple-A Memphis. This is the second straight year the Cardinals have chosen an untested 28-year-old for a reserve outfielder role. Jeremy Hazelbaker, now with the Diamondbacks, unexpectedly emerged last spring and then slashed a useful .235/.295/.480 with 12 homers in 224 plate appearances as a rookie. Martinez, a .324/.392/.483 hitter in 885 Triple-A plate trips, has mashed this spring en route to a roster spot. Pham hasn’t, further influencing St. Louis’ decision, but he does own a quality .245/.333/.455 line in 358 major league PAs.
- As of earlier this week, the Dodgers considered outfielder Andre Ethier doubtful for Opening Day on account of a “mild” herniated disk in his lower back. It now appears Ethier’s a lock to miss the beginning of the season, as the soon-to-be 35-year-old won’t resume baseball activities until the first week of April, tweets Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers don’t consider Ethier’s injury a serious one, though. “I think it’s actually a good sign,” said manager Dave Roberts. “It’s not a six- to eight-week thing as I understand it” (Twitter link via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register).